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Spencer DeVeau
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Art by Noelle Richardson 2015

Tick, Tick, Click


by Spencer DeVeau


The ticking never stops. It’s as much a part of me as my arms, or my legs, and I can’t accept that.

I lay in bed, tossing and turning, waiting for the ticking to fade into obscurity, for sleep to take me from consciousness into dream, where it only acts as background noise.

Sleep is the problem as much as it is the answer. And I don’t intend to sleep my life away. I grab a pillow and smother it across my face. I scream until my throat burns.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

My cotton t-shirt sticks to my chest, I wipe my forehead with the back of my hand. My hand shakes as I reach for the glass of water I keep on my nightstand. The water is warm, but soothes my throat.

Tick. Tick.

My head pulses, I hear my blood pumping in sync with my eardrums. Sleep never comes easy. I look to my alarm clock, it reads: 3:46 a.m. in soft, neon-green colors.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

I think back to the day the ticking overtook the other noises inside my head. I think of the soft, white fluff falling from the skies, caught in the headlights of my car as cruise down the I-48, blaring classics—the good stuff.

I think of hearing that first tick, louder than the music pumping from my car’s speakers, and I think of how I turned the volume to zero and held my wristwatch up to my ear. I pulled the car to the side and checked every inch of my car for the cause of the ticking.

The ticking was faster then, rapid, like the clicking keys of court reporter, or a malfunctioning clock, amplified through one-hundred concert speakers.


These days the ticking has slowed, but thrums harder than ever. Each tick jars me out peacefulness, though peace shouldn’t be expected. Hope will do that sort of thing to you.


I don’t know how much more I can take. Each tick grinds against my skull, driving me closer towards utter insanity. The ceiling has never looked so dull.

I reach for my glass again and my hand hovers over the drawer of my nightstand; its contents sparse—a Bible, pen, notepad, and a .38 snub nose revolver my father left for me after he drank himself to death. Thanks, Pop.

I crack the drawer open, enough to see the textured, coal-colored temptation. Tonight wouldn’t be the first time I did this. There’s comfort in knowing you always have a way out, whether that way out is thought to be the easiest and most cowardly.


I run my fingers over the smooth metal of the barrel.

No. There has to be another way.

I reach for the Bible instead. I struggle lifting the leather-bound tome out of the drawer with one hand, but I manage. I flip to a random page, somewhere in the middle, and begin reading. The words don’t register over the noise. I scream them in my head, trying to mute the pounding ticks, and then take to screaming aloud for the world to hear. I fail.


The gun sparkles from inside the drawer, despite my bedroom’s lack of light.

Do it, go ahead. Stop the ticking for good, some part of my mind says. I try to fight it. But my hand is practically a magnet and before I can comprehend, I see the Bible scattered on the floor, face down, its thin pages bent and crumpled, and the revolver in my hand.

Tears begin to roll down my cheeks. My face feels flushed. I can’t swallow; the glass of water is dry.

The barrel stares back at me, I can just make out the slender tubing in the faint moonlight creeping through my curtains. A bird makes a pained caw that I barely hear over my racing thoughts, and of course, the ticking.

No one believes me when I say I hear it. They brush me off as crazy like someone who hears voices. But this is not a voice. This is worse than voices. I could at least talk to voices.

Hi, Voice-Inside-My-Head. What should we do today?

Go out for some ice cream, you deserve it.

See, I could deal with that.

Hello, Relentless-Ticking. What should we do today?


Do you see what I’m getting at? Do you blame me for what I hold in my hand? You would have to deal with it nonstop like I do, to understand.

The barrel is heavier than the Bible—at least it seems. Maybe it’s the decision that’s heavy, not the gun.

I raise the revolver to my mouth, bite down on the barrel, and a thought flashes inside my head. I can shoot whatever is causing the noise out of my head. I relocate the barrel to my temple. If I miss I’m dead; either way, the ticking stops.

I take a shaky breath. A bird caws again and the barrel scrapes my skin.


It pounds the opposite side of my head. I reposition again.

Tick. It moves to the back of my head.

Tick. Now right above my eyes. The revolver follows.

Stop, I want to scream, but I know it won’t listen.

You know how to make it stop, the devilish part of my mind says. I do know how, he’s right.

I move the barrel back to my mouth.


My heart drops, and I only hear my heavy breathing.

I release the revolver’s cylinder and feel only empty holes where the bullets should’ve been. Tonight was the night—I was actually going to follow through with it.

The heavy iron clangs on the hardwood floor, I run to my living room looking for the box of bullets that came with the gun. How could I not load it?

I find nothing. Dad’s been dead too long. The garage, maybe, and I run, my steps thunderous and frantic.

The cold air leaking in through the garage’s structure ices my sweat. I see the boxes marked DAD and rummage through them. No luck. My hands clasp the back of my neck and I sit in silence.

Silence, until my psychotic laughter bounces off the garage walls. I had scared the ticks away as if they were an extreme case of the hiccups.

And at last, I could hear the silence.

Spencer DeVeau lives in rural Ohio with his seven dogs, and wonderful mother. He attends a local university, where he shudders at the thought of actually picking a major. Though nothing can shake his profound love of reading and writing.

In Association with Fossil Publications